By the time I got around to seeing Ghost in the Shell it had already been slated but, putting this controversy aside, I found this to actually be an enjoyable film. Not great or as groundbreaking as the original anime and it doesn’t invent anything new but it does takes the original idea and transposes it onto the screen in decent enough version of real life.
Scarlett Johannsson, for all the furore around her casting, is an accurate adaptation as Major. Yes, it would have been nice to have seen an actor of asian origin in this role but Johannsson does do a good job and, on closer inspection is a very close match visually for the original. She performs the reserved/inhibited Major well, akin to her role in Under the Skin where she is again different from everyone else, isn’t able to understand or appropriate the emotions that others show.
There are issues with it. Some of the early animation of cityscapes are dire (especially when you compare it to the cityscape shots of Bladerunner from 30 odd years ago), and the dialogue and characterisation aren’t up to scratch.
Visually they have done a decent job of bringing the anime to life. Scarlett Johansson is, in my opinion, actually a good fit for Major, as is Pilou Asbaek for Batou and Takeshi Kitano as Daisuke Aramaki. Some of the overhead shots that move into close ups are really well done, and when the locations aren’t CG they look superb. In a contrast with the dark futuristic streets of Bladerunner these are well lit, daytime shots, bringing a different aesthetic and feeling to proceedings.
The iconic elements from the anime are all there: Spider droid? Check. Invisibility suit? Check. Shallow water fight? Check. Batou’s weird eyes? Check. Storywise this 2017 version is pretty similar to the original, as far as I remember (might need a rewatch of that to check if I’m remembering correctly, it never hurts!).
As with most things, I would have been happier with something grittier and darker, maybe give a bit more of the story to the Major and her struggles to find herself after being artificially wiped as this was a little rushed, a little bit ham-fisted.
I though Michael Carmen Pitt did a good job as Kuze, up until near the end (the reconciliation scene), when it took a turn for the worse. Up until then I got the feel for his plight and his plotting against those who did this to him, whereas we never got that sense from the Major, she is more innocent bystander to this situation, watching from inside than playing an active part.
For simple enjoyment the film does well, if you want to dig into it a bit deeper then you are going to find multiple issues. It didn’t quite know what it wants to be; it’s not quite as wild as the anime but then it isn’t grounded either. Overall it is a bit messy but decent performances from the main actors gives it some plus points. Some amazing looking visuals at times and really poor at others sums up this film, some bits are great, others not so much.